Pop and the clash of cultures

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So Libby and I were talking more about abstract painting the other day. (It’s such a big subject and there’s so much to say.) Here’s one thought I’d like to add.

Human visual culture has always been body-oriented. Especially now it seems that way. As humans who have bodies we are attracted to others like ourselves. We’re people-watchers. Even in our art.

Pop culture — which sniffs around art’s butt (and vice versa) has begun to dominate visual culture. And let’s face it, pop culture (I’m thinking of Brittany Spears writhing like a pole dancer on tv trying to sell music to 12-year-olds and their dads, for example) sets the bar low –on everything, but especially on bodies.

In my opinion, art’s challenge in the 21st Century is to somehow throttle pop culture and seize back the momentum, seize back the discussion about the human condition.

If abstract painting can do that — with some combination of body-referencing or human-condition-referencing then bring it on. Otherwise, and here I’m going to be self-contradictory again, but really I’m as confused as the next person about these guys, maybe John Currin and Matthew Barney and (I hate to say it) Lisa Yuskavage are on the right track. (also on track are Cindy Sherman, see “Untitled Film Still #10,” 1978, left; and Jenny Saville, see top, “Propped,” 1992)

By the way, read Peter Schjeldahl’s current Currin thinking in the New Yorker. This critic is confused, too. He basically loves the guy’s paintings and then ends up saying the only way to “counter” Currin is for newer, better paintings to be made. Yes!

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